Read an Excerpt
By Deirdre Bair
Back Bay BooksCopyright © 2004 Deirdre Bair
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHow the Jungs Became Swiss
The child who became the world-renowned psychologist C. G. Jung was christened Karl Gustav II Jung, after his illustrious grandfather Carl Gustav I Jung, but with the spelling of his first name modernized. His parents did observe the old Swiss custom of indicating that he was the second to bear it by placing the Roman numeral between his given and family names. Born on July 26, 1875, in the vicarage of Kesswil, he was the fourth-born but first-surviving child of Paul Achilles Jung, a poor country parson in the Swiss Reformed Church, and Emilie Preiswerk, his unhappy and unstable wife.
Each was a thirteenth child of well-known parents, so the union of a thirteenth Preiswerk daughter to a thirteenth Jung son was regarded as highly auspicious in a socially conscious Swiss culture imbued with equal parts of respect and fear for omens of any kind. On both sides there were so many prominent ministers and doctors that if families could be said to own professions, these two could lay claim to religion and medicine. And yet, even though each family enjoyed high social standing in the city of Basel, their personal eccentricities and unorthodox genealogies were more talked about than their professional successes.
Jung's mother, Emilie Preiswerk, was twenty-one on her wedding day, April 8, 1869, and by the standards of the time, a spinster on the verge of old-maid-hood. The ceremony took place in the hallowed Basel Cathedral, the Munster, because the bride's father, Samuel Preiswerk, was the Antistes of Basel, the president of the company of pastors in the local Swiss Reformed Church. Emilie's groom, Johann Paul Achilles Jung, was twenty-seven, a good age for a man to embark upon marriage in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His father, Dr. Med. Carl Gustav I Jung, was a physician and dean of the University of Basel's Faculty of Medicine. Even though both fathers held respected positions, there were degrees of difference in their social standing that were exacerbated by their scant financial resources. They had little to bolster their youngest children as they began married life, so the wedding party was modestly dressed, and the luncheon afterward frugal. Differences both overt and subtle were present at the beginning of the marriage and caused problems for as long as it lasted. They had an enduring effect on Paul and Emilie's son, known in maturity as C. G., influencing many aspects of his life and work.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Basel into which C. G. Jung was born was the most conservative of all the cities in the Swiss confederation of twenty-six cantons (states). Society was so rigidly stratified that even though the Antistes Preiswerk was pleased with his daughter's marriage, everyone knew that Emilie had, in a very real sense, married beneath her station. Paul Jung may have been well educated, but he was still a poor country parson barely able to provide for a wife. Social standing, however, was not Emilie's first consideration, as there had been no other suitors for her hand.
The Preiswerks were Swiss citizens with an impeccably conservative lineage, of the vom Tieg, the oldest patrician families in Basel. The Jungs were newcomers who became accidentally Swiss when their German patriarch, Dr. Med. Carl Gustav I Jung, was exiled for political agitation. He became notorious among the good burghers of Basel, not only for his liberal political views but also for the story he so enjoyed telling, that he was an illegitimate son of the poet Goethe. His reputation in Protestant Basel was further blemished when nosy citizens traced his family history and found that the German Jungs were Roman Catholics, which in Basel was almost as damaging as being the descendant of a poet.
Paul and Emilie gave their son the modern spelling of his name, Karl, but he changed it to the original family form when he was a university student. As far back as the Jung family's history and genealogy can be traced, to approximately 1650, in Mainz, Germany, Carl was a popular name. Sometime before 1654, the earliest town records describe the esteemed Dr. Med. Dr. Jur. Carl Jung as a Catholic physician, lawyer, and rector (president) of the university. His grandson, Franz Ignaz (1759-1831), became C. G. Jung's great-grandfather and was responsible for moving the Jung family to Mannheim when he became a physician in charge of a field hospital during the Napoleonic wars. His wife, Sophie Jung-Ziegler, is alleged to have had the liaison with Goethe that led to the rumor of his fathering Carl Gustav I (1794-1864), Jung's grandfather and the first of the family's Swiss citizens.
Carl Gustav I was a larger-than-life figure around whom legends abounded. He attended the University of Heidelberg from 1813 to 1816, graduating summa cum laude with a doctorate in medicine and the natural sciences, awarded for a dissertation entitled "De evolutione corporis humani." A man "of tall, strong build with beautiful, almost girlishly soft features,"> he had many moods and talents. As a student he kept a small, exceedingly pink pig as a pet, shocking the good people of Heidelberg by cooing affectionately as he walked it on a leash like a dog. He was a talented writer of poems and songs, some of which were published in the Teutsche Liederbuch (German Book of Songs). Leading literary figures urged him to give up medicine and concentrate on poetry, advice he did not follow, although he continued to publish anonymously. Very few people knew that he loved crime fiction (as did his grandson and namesake) so much that as Mathias Nusser he wrote a popular comedy, Die Verdachtigen (The Suspect). He was also Demius, the author of a play bearing the incendiary title Die Revolution.
The medical career of Carl Gustav I blossomed from the start: when only twenty-four, he was called to Berlin to become surgical assistant to the legendary Charite Hospital ophthalmologist, Johann Nepomuk Rust, and to hold a joint appointment as lecturer in chemistry at the Koniglich-Preussischen Kriegsschule (the Royal Prussian War College).
In Berlin, Carl Gustav I lived in the home of the publisher Georg Andreas Reimer and his wife, both of whom treated him as a son. Through the Reimers, he became part of a group of intellectuals that included leaders of the Romantic movement, Ludwig Tieck and the brothers Schlegel. Of greater influence, however, was Friedrich D. E. Schleiermacher, the most important Protestant theologian of the Romantic movement, instrumental in the founding of Berlin University and the first professor of theology. He was also pastor of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Trinity Church), where crowds flocked to hear his sermons, "esteemed for their sincerity and religious fervour as well as, at this time of national depression, for their patriotism."
Ties between the Jung and Schleiermacher families had been strengthened when Schleiermacher's sister married Carl Gustav I's elder brother, Sigismund, and converted to the Jung family's Catholicism. Carl Gustav I's deeply religious Catholic parents were distressed when he weakened those ties by converting to Schleiermacher's firebrand Reformed Protestantism, best described as political activism based on the democratic ideas of German Romanticism.
On October 18, 1817, Carl Gustav I was among a large gathering of students at the University of Jena to celebrate the tercentenary of the Protestant Reformation. As a member of the nationalistic gymnastic corps headed by Frederich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852), he made the pilgrimage to the Wartburgfest at Wartburg, where Luther had earlier posted his Ninety-five Theses. Like most of the students, he paid greater homage to politics than to religion, commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, which ended Napoleon's empire in Germany. The Wartburgfest sparked widespread student protest over the government's despotic policies, resulting in further severe restrictions on general civil liberties. When Carl Gustav I's friend Karl Ludwig Sand killed the reactionary poet August von Kotzebue on March 23, 1819, all student fraternities and clubs were banned, and many professors who championed liberal views were arrested. Among them was Carl Gustav I, whose crime was mere possession of the kind of hammer used in mineralogical research, a gift to him from Sand. The "demagogue" Jung was sentenced to thirteen months in the Hansvogtai prison and, when released, was unemployable in Germany.
He went to Paris to seek a career in medical research, and at this point his life becomes a melange of "fiction and truth." The only constant in the several legends of how Carl Gustav I Jung became Swiss and a citizen of Basel is the eminent natural scientist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). The present-day Jung family tells the same story favored by their grandfather C. G. II, but they do so with a healthy dose of skepticism, while he allegedly considered it fact. In this version, Carl Gustav I is a "starving," down-at-heel German political refugee who sat shivering on a Parisian park bench, when a stranger (von Humboldt) engaged him in conversation. Von Humboldt was so dismayed by this casual acquaintance's desperate circumstances and so impressed with his scientific knowledge that he nominated him for a low-level medical position at the Swiss Berner Akademie, which he had been asked to fill. Bern did not hire Carl Gustav I, so von Humboldt (by this time his friend) made a second and successful nomination, to the more prestigious medical school at Basel University.
Another version of how the Jungs became Swiss is more grandiose, with Carl Gustav seeking employment in Paris, armed with a letter of introduction from Dr. Rust of the Berlin Charite Hospital to the French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren. Dupuytren is supposed to have invited Carl Gustav I to a banquet being given in his honor and seated him next to a distinguished middle-aged man whom he so dazzled that he was offered the professorship in anatomy, surgery, and obstetrics at the University of Basel. Only after Carl Gustav I accepted, so this version goes, did he learn that his benefactor was Alexander von Humboldt.
A third version is the most mundane but probably closest to the truth: Carl Gustav I lived in the Berlin home of the publisher Georg Andreas Reimer, who was a friend and frequent correspondent of von Humboldt. Carl Gustav probably went to Paris highly recommended by Reimer and, quite possibly, Schleiermacher, who also knew von Humboldt. He also went with financial backing from his own father, which allowed him to live comfortably and marry the first of his three wives, Virginie de Lassaulx (1804-30). Without parental assistance, he could not have supported himself, let alone a wife, on the salary of the poorly paid position he held until he went to Basel. The only verifiable fact in the three stories, however, is that von Humboldt did write one of several letters to Burgermeister Wieland of Basel recommending Carl Gustav I for the professorship.
On March 18, 1822, Carl Gustav I arrived in his new homeland, and the following decade of his life was dominated by his heroic efforts to reorganize the medical school. When he and Virginie arrived, Basel was a community of fewer than twenty-five thousand people, a "viable anachronism" with a "patrician dominated social structure," smug in the worship of commerce and the practice of a rigid, restrictive, and conventional Protestant religion. For the most part, the cultural climate was so intellectually barren that even the canton's bureaucratic officials realized something had to be done about the sorry state of the university, which then enrolled fewer than twenty-eight students. In 1818 they enacted broad laws that specified its total reorganization, but when Carl Gustav was appointed four years later, most had not yet been implemented. He used the stagnation to his own advantage: the medical school had appointments for four full professorships, but only three were filled; after one semester as a lecturer, he persuaded his colleagues to appoint him to the last vacancy. They took the lazy way out as an act of expediency, but he seized the initiative to become first among equals. In a city known as "the sulking corner of Europe," he enlisted other radical refugee professors who shared his vision of "national regeneration through the study of the classical languages and culture" to help restructure the curriculum.
Despite sweeping transformations throughout the world in procedure and theory, medical instruction in Basel had not changed since the end of the eighteenth century, when the only professor, the great Johann Jacob Burckhardt, taught one full-time student and several barbers' apprentices. The other instructors taught no medical students and were totally occupied with their private practices. No wonder that between 1806 and 1814 not a single medical degree was granted. This was the situation facing Carl Gustav I in 1823, when he became chairman by default. He exerted the full force of his brash personality to turn the medical curriculum into the most rigorous in the university, instituting new courses in anatomy and pathology and conceiving a related curriculum in Therapie, a combination of the latest medical technique and philosophy that was used to treat mental conditions. He also appointed himself Oberarzt (senior physician) at the affiliated hospital, the Burgerspital, where he enlarged the facilities and improved the quality of care. Six short years later, in 1828, he was appointed Rektor, the chief official of the entire university. A groundbreaker in medical affairs all his life, he founded a home for mentally deficient children in 1857, the Anstalt zur Hoffnung (Institution for Hope), which became a model of its kind and which he called his happiest achievement.
Carl Gustav I made few friends among the leading citizens, who took pride only "in writing six zeros after their names." He was grudgingly respected but not much liked, for he agitated publicly about his two major bones of contention: German politics (about which the good burghers of Basel thought he should mind his own Swiss business) and Basel's highly restrictive civil rights, which caused sporadic armed warfare between residents of the city and those of the outlying lands. Even though he obtained Swiss citizenship in 1824, in a surprisingly short period of time, he was still known disparagingly as the deutscher Demokrat und Liberaler (German democrat and liberal).
Excerpted from Jung by Deirdre Bair Copyright © 2004 by Deirdre Bair. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.